"Power concedes nothing without demand. It never has and it never will."
Because people tend not to share power, there will be more Fergusons in America's future: isolated communities ignored by leaders and harassed by heavily armed police forces, says Charles Gallagher, a sociology professor at LaSalle University in Pennsylvania.
The nation won't have a vibrant middle class because of persistent income inequality; it will primarily be the rich and poor, he says. The poor won't vote because they're too disenchanted, and politicians will ignore the concerns of most Americans because wealthy people control politics, Gallagher says.
"I see us looking more and more like Latin America," he says.
The courts could intervene on behalf of racial minorities and the poor. The citizens of Ferguson could, for example pressure their city leaders to place more blacks in their police force.
Yet the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court has changed the legal landscape to make such efforts more difficult, Gallagher says. The court has consistently ruled against any diversity efforts hinting at racial preferences.
"This particular court is hostile to the idea of using race in any situation to honestly address ongoing inequalities," Gallagher says.
Racial minorities who feel like they're excluded won't find much empathy from ordinary white Americans either, says Kramer, the Villanova professor. He says many whites operate under this assumption: If they gain, I lose.
That assumption, he says, is played out in Southern states that refuse to accept Obamacare, in the rise of voter ID laws and in the political version of white flight -- where predominantly white communities break away from their counties to incorporate their own cities when too many minorities move into nearby neighborhoods.
He says American democracy was called a "noble experiment" for a reason: People didn't know if democracy, let alone a multiethnic democracy, would work.
Democracy in America could look more like how protesters describe Ferguson: a place where government maintains the façade of a democracy, but doesn't function like one.
"People don't realize that we're still in the experimental stage," Kramer says. "My fear is that we're not going to actually gain true democracy."
Assumption No. 3: It's always about race
Some see another type of frightening scenario for America based on Ferguson. To them, it's premature to say that Darren Wilson, the Ferguson officer who shot Michael Brown to death, was motivated by racism.
They see Ferguson as a stage for the rise of "racial grifters."
That's the term John Nolte, a columnist for Breitbart.com, uses to describe leaders who rallied to the side of black protesters in Ferguson.
"They go into these areas and scream racism before the facts are out and all of a sudden, there's a racial issue," he says. "They grift on race to profit from it, like Al Sharpton."
Nolte rejects the notion that some white Americans fear the nation becoming a majority brown country. He says he was one of a handful of whites who lived in a Latino community in Los Angeles for years, and he never had a problem. His wife is Latina, and his extended family has people of all races.
He says he's "pro-miscegenation," a term he borrows from his late friend, Andrew Breitbart, because ultimately "people are people."
"The American people get along very well," Nolte says. "It's only when you have situations like you have in Ferguson -- and the racial grifters move in and the media moves to back them up -- that things turn into what they do."
Nolte says there's a hidden motive behind the furor in racial flashpoints like Ferguson, and that media organizations like CNN are complicit.
He says the furor over the black teenager Trayvon Martin's death in Florida took place just before the last presidential election. The uproar over Ferguson is taking place just before this year's midterm elections.
"If these things aren't happening every few months, if we start to heal and look past racial divisions, the Democrats lose 25% of the black or Hispanic vote and they're done as a national party."
The country won't get past its racial divisions anytime soon because it's the only way Democrats can win, he says.
"There's too much profit in it for the racial grifters and the media for anyone to try to heal us," he says. "We never talk about how far we've come."